It has been quite a year for Big XII basketball, and I dont mean that in a good way. The bombs have dropped almost everywhere, starting with Missouri finally putting Quin Snyder out of his misery halfway through last season and continuing right up to the doorstep of the new season. Last week it was Bill Walker
s shocking enrollment at Kansas State as a 2006 recruit, and Ricardo Patton picking up the slack for the Colorado administration and firing himself. Today came news that two more elite Big XII players are sidelined for significant chunks of time. Sasha Kaun
s knee injury
is getting a lot more press than it would have if fellow junior big man CJ Giles hadnt gotten the boot earlier this month, and Bob Knight
s decision to dismiss
all-everything guard Jarrius Jackson
may have effectively ended Texas Techs NCAA Tournament hopes.Kaun's loss really a major blow?
Some will probably claim that the loss of Kaun has put Kansas in a real bind, as the Jayhawks are now thin in the frontcourt and will miss the juniors space-eating interior presence. Nonetheless, I have to wonder how much Kauns injury will really affect this team in terms of wins and losses.
Even as a sophomore, the hype surrounding Kaun was more about potential than anything the big guy was actually bringing to the court on a consistent basis. He started off the season on a roll but regressed as the year went on, scoring double figures just three times in Big XII play. Kaun certainly could be missed in specific situations, but Kansas has the horses to play through this against just about any team in the country. It seemed as if the court was always crowded on the offensive end for a season ago, and the presence of so many offensively inconsistent big men certainly had something to do with that.
Take Kaun out of the equation, and Bill Self has a team that isnt worse, but just different - perhaps less versatile, but also more dangerous in a lot of ways. Suddenly players like Julian Wright
and Brandon Rush
have much more space to operate - both should be significantly improved offensively players. Three and four guard lineups featuring Russell Robinson
, Mario Chalmers
, and Sherron Collins
should be the norm, and the pace should pick up significantly. Taking a look at the schedule, it appears that the only team with the size to overpower a still physically imposing frontcourt rotation of Wright, Arthur, and the underrated (as Ken Pomeroy points out in his preview here
) Darnell Jackson
would be Florida. Certainly nobody in the Big XII is capable of taking advantage, And I still have my doubts that even the defending champs will be able to slow the game down enough to actually exploit Kaun's absence to any sort of visible degree.
In the meantime, Kansas just got a lot more athletic and a lot more fun to watch. Kaun will be back eventually, but dont expect him to regain his starting job instantly. His recovery is going to be a process, and Kansas should be steamrolling through a downtrodden Big XII long before he is ready to take back his old role. Expect him to slowly work his way back into the rotation, and for him to make an impact when the Jayhawks actually need another post presence, which might not happen until sometime in March. Jacksons Loss a Worst Case Scenario
Check out the aforementioned Ken Pomeroy preview to gain a better understanding of just how much trouble the Red Raiders are suddenly in. Bobby Knight has never required a talent advantage to be successful, but there is always at least one legitimate go-to gun on deck. Even more so than in years past, Jarrius Jackson
had emerged as the player Red Raider nation was placing all its hopes on.
With Jackson, the Raiders are a well-balanced, experienced squad more than capable of making an NCAA Tournament run. Without him, Texas Tech is lacking in ballhandling experience, perimeter shooting, go-to scoring, defensive intensity, athleticism, and much, much more. If there was a team that couldnt afford the loss of its star player this fall, it might have been Texas Tech.
It is too early to tell if this was just an aggressive Knight tactic to give his star player and team a wakeup call, or if the General is actually intending to move on without his All-American. If so, JC transfer Charlie Burgess better be much, much better than advertised. I was planning on predicting a 4th place finish for the Red Raiders this year, but without Jackson they would probably fall to at least 7th. It could all be forgotten in a week, but if Jarrius Jackson
s career at Texas Tech truly is over, only a bombshell this big would be a fitting end to an offseason in which they never really stopped coming. Offseason's End...
On a slightly related note, the offseason really did end tonight for a couple of Big XII programs.
Texas opened its exhibition schedule with a 98-64 win
over DII Lenoir-Ryhme. It was DJ Augustin, AJ Abrams, Damion James
, Kevin Durant
, and Connor Atchley
getting the call from Rick Barnes. Matt Hill, Justin Mason, and Craig Winder got double-digit minutes off the bench. Highly touted freshman alert:
Durant finished 16, James scored 14 to go along with 12 boards, and Augustin checked in with 8 points and 7 assists.
Jeff Capel and Oklahoma also kicked off the season with an easy exhibition win
over Oklahoma Christian. Capel went with Austin Johnson, David Godbold, Mike Neal, Taylor Griffin, and Longar Longar
. Freshman Keith Clark scored 18 points in 27 minutes off the bench.